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The Tangent - A Place In The Queue CD (album) cover

A PLACE IN THE QUEUE

The Tangent

 

Eclectic Prog

3.81 | 251 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

PrawgDawg
5 stars [Disclaimer: This is a long, comprehensive review. It might take you awhile to go through it. To save time, go directly to your local music outfitter. Otherwise, I'm sure you'll appreciate this sprawled out sales pitch. It's blatantly clear that the cat didn't have my tongue in this instance. In reality, my problem was finding a stopping point.]

The album is so colorful; it's like seeing the sun after being locked up in solitary confinement for a year. It seems like only yesterday they drove us through a brilliant world of adventure. They haven't had much time in the laboratory since then, but you wouldn't know that from hearing this material. Concepts have been attempted, but trust me; you've never heard one like this in the past. It'll break the bonds of the The Matrix and free you from that oppressive sleep-induced incarceration. Their lyrical libretto will liberate your mind and make you ponder many awe-inspiring questions. It'll also ameliorate any lemming-like behavior that you might be prone to act out. If you listen with intent, you too will join the ranks of the enlightened. This is an out of body experience that's so existential; it can only come from the X-Men, X-Files, tiny greenies, or extraterrestrials. In other words, The Tangent's skill is out of this world.

The band boasts that this release is two-in-one, and they aren't kidding. You'll find yourself checking the timestamp often in order to see how many minutes remain. It'll be a surprise once you realize that so much is left. Its audiences will be perplexed by how much they were able to fit into this laser-etched Frisbee. Alas, it's wedged within a standard disc. Speaking of which, Andy "Diskdrive" Tillison is not only the maestro on the keys, but a true master who corners the market on creative writing. Moreover, if you get hooked up with the deluxe edition, you're meal will be doused in extra gravy.

The Tangent is arguably the best offering on the InsideOut Record label. Playing host to bands such as The Flower Kings, Pain of Salvation, Symphony X, and Saga, that's no small matter to achieve. Even so, they consistently put out art that rivals the monuments of Bellini. Their premiere was hailed as the best progressive rock debut, at a time when there was a bottomless well of highly qualified candidates. In their sophomore year, they followed it up with another quality creation. Now they do the unthinkable: They skip a grade and graduate in short succession. While Michelangelo was a master painter and Rodin the accomplished sculptor, Andy Tillison is the cream of the crop when it comes to crafting melodic worlds of wonder. Da Vinci couldn't have architected a better design. In my opinion, he can't touch it.

I heard a sample in concert long before it was ready for pressing. While I was enamored with the highlights of their first two albums - i.e. The Music That Died Alone and World That We Drive Through, you can instantly tell that Tillison had something tasty cooking in the kitchen. I welcomed the reprieve because I couldn't stand the downtime. Since then, I have found that this partially juvenile display has grown from a larva to a moth.

Lest I forget, the concept is an involved one. It has to do with how we're buried in legalese and literally administered to death. Aiding and abetting sadistic aristocrats, the populace is ready and willing to fall in line. I think Tillison would appreciate Papillon starring Dustin Hoffman and Steve McQueen. The morale of that tale: While we'd like to be as free as a butterfly, we often let ourselves be dehumanized and treated as slaves. This indefensible behavior only supports the despots who swat and stifle our every move as if we were a nasty horde of flies.

Tillison's words are cynical, but it's not altogether depressing. Although the overall attitude is quite dismal, the instrumentals are to a certain extent cheerful.

Back to the bad news: Roine Stolt, Zoltan Czorz, and Andrew Jackson are no longer a part of the syndicate. Their departures constitute a major loss to the team. It's like displacing last seasons leading scorers. Fortunately, their fill-ins make them more than whole again. Krister Jonzon (guitarist), Jaime Salazar (drummer and also a former member of The Flower Kings), and Theo Travis (flutes; sax; anything wind, not brass) bring a variegated vibe into the equation. While it's neither better nor worse, in some ways it is poles apart. Nevertheless, the change is utterly invigorating. Their contributions make the seasoned players young at heart. We hear ELP, Van Der Graaf Generator, Yes and The Flower Kings in their collaborative synergy. On the whole, it is unlike anything I've ever heard. It's so brand spanking new; your stump will be swollen and bruised from the rapturous beating of these progressive rulers.

While everything in general is enhanced, the guitars have been rebuilt from the ground up. Even with substantial adjustments, it still steers and jeers just as straight and tight. The replacement couldn't have been received any better. This is a testament to Jonzon's unreal talent built upon Stolt's completely surreal foundation. Each guitarist has their own flamboyant style. Like King Midas, Stolt has been known to drag whatever music he touches into the direction of his sanctimonious garden. His surrogate keeps the quality afloat, but has more of a candid and fancy-free approach. It's hard to say which style I like better. You can't beat Stolt's patience. Then again, Jonzon is a fun guy to have in the mix. Okay, maybe he's not wet and mossy (Get it? Fungi. I'm so funny), but his wacky solos are sure to grow on you. When comparing the pair, it's close enough to have to go back to the cameras. Regardless of what the referees decide, many fans will disagree; most will accept to along with the optimistic decree.

This gets three thumbs up: Ebert, Roeper's, and mine. The movie critics may be ignorant to Progressive Rock and I may have made their alleged evaluations up, but the vote from me is tried and true. As a loyal fan of this symphonic genus, I've witnessed many great albums in recent years, but this is as close to greatness as a band can achieve. Tillison will probably come out with another tour de force. Despite that, this should stand the test of time. In the interim, it's freshly squeezed, so expect it to be frequently revisited and then slurped.

As The Tangent takes us on the lamb from our tedious existence, let's check out their latest and greatest escape:

In Earnest - I heard an earlier rendering of this song before the Cray mainframes had filled in the empty pixels. That version was good, but this one's drastically better. Maybe my stereo system is that super. Most likely the tweaks can be ascribed to Andy Tillison's attention to detail. Either way, they deliver the Motts right on schedule. As usual, each piece is custom-crafted and made to order. What is more, the music is much warmer. The keyboards receive totally sufficient representation in this release. It's bluesy and bombastic at times; clawing at the crust like Derek Sherinian's ivory teeth in Platypus. Successive to this listening session, I'm scheduled to see The Syn. I cannot help but think of Chris Squire as I hear Jonas Reingold belch from the bass. If these gestures mean you approve of the meal then Reingold is really enjoying himself. This concoction is time-consuming (20 minutes to be precise). What's more, it's opaque. You've been forewarned! It will take several gasps to fully breathe in and more than a few gulps to suck down the regurgitated bits. It soars with the spitfire of Big Big Train and orbits with the poetic flight of Satellite. It's also ingrained with the classiness of Genesis. That's complimented by the organic earthiness of Echolyn. If it's not already embedded with enough wonder to take flight, it also contains the pop-laden subtleties of The Beatles. Plus, it has the suave coolness of "The Canterbury Sequence" pooled within the symphonic whirlpool of Kansas. While Jonzon sets off a slew of rockets, it is Reingold who lights the wick. This flickers with the glint of the old but reliable Van Der Graaf Generator, and as I've conjectured and shared; I detect the molecules of Mei beside the pretentious detonations of Spock's Beards "Crack the Sky." They open with an epic that travels far and wide. It's derived from Disney's Fantasia and has a trajectory that intersects with the arcadia of Atreyu. Its radiant all-around, but to be explicit, the bass playing is top-notch. As it will take dozens of listens to truly appreciate, this is what I'd label a "delayed" masterpiece. So it's contrary to Folger's motto. All this and I haven't even touched upon the thought-provoking storyline that pays homage to an old-timer and a ragged ace. While we're on the subject, it's a whole different mission when your perspective is on the lyrics. That is why it's wise to rack up your frequent flier miles here.

Lost in London - My oldest brother is an opera singer. He has a degree in music and he's sung around the world. He's been in the company of many renowned vocalists from Billy Joel to the understudy of Pavarotti. He's an established expert in this art form, so his hypotheses are academically valid. With that said, he seriously thought Tillison was the best singer ever to perform at RoSfest. This is ironic since Tillison lists himself on the roster strictly as a keyboardist. Like Michael Vick, his talents surpass a single position. I agree. He is an outstanding singer. This album is a showcase of each of his many talents including his press permed voice. It's not only his reputable pitch but also how he uses it. He demonstrates passion and grace, and this introspective parable depicts the paradigm best. Many singers could learn something from his technique, and his endowment doesn't end there. He is an exceptional songwriter too. This composition especially is as delicious and austere as a cream cracker. It serves its purpose and adequately fills insatiable tummies. However, his pudding is not runny oatmeal or watered-down soup. It's more like a viscous pancake or thick paste. Maybe that's due to the fact that he is an Englishman. Consistent with every song on the album, he escorts us through a secret passage. It's as if they took us on an Easter egg hunt. While it may be as straightforward as sticky rice, its belly is filled with tapioca and fruity jelly. You'll be happy to get lost in the hidey-hole of this hazy mix. Just when it seems the point has been dispensed, current topics are insightfully referenced.

DIY Surgery - This is the most economical article to be furnished by this group of musicians. It's as if it came from IKEA. As long as we're talking acronyms, I thought the Swedish retailer would be credible to cite in my testimonial. In its succinct space, it pegs Far Corner's self-titled debut to the corkboard. Additionally, the tacky assembly adheres to The Flower King's Unfold the Future. In other words, it's vastly jazzy and very weird. The sax is one of the most frequently used tools involved in this witty episode of Home Improvement. When perusing the how-to handbook, it concludes by saying you might as well, "Do it yourself!"

GPS Culture - This intersects with Yes' "Roundabout", which might explain why it was initially my favorite song. When it hits the road, it's really pound the tar. The transitions are so smooth; there is no need for a flimsy click track to guide it. As long as we're talking quasi-car analogies, it puts the pedal to the floorboards and revs on all cylinders. Due to its heedlessness, it slaps hard into a pothole and loses more than a heat shield. What's more, it rattles to the sounds of Deep Purple's "Smoke on the Water." Speaking of which, this hydro-racer's pit crew consists of Karmakanic. Once they've bridged the bottleneck and installed the navigational unit on the dashboard, they go on to complete the work order with very little resistance.

Follow Your Leaders - As promised, once you've voided the sodden sack, there are multiple goodies to snatch. There is nothing bitter or salty about this ichorously pulpy piece. It cracks with the verve of Kaipa, but sizzles with the sweltering sting of Pop Rocks Candy. This carbonated limestone fizzes when it damp. As you might have guessed, there is a lot of Reingold drilled into its trenches. His furious bass constantly chafes against this ditty's fleshy thighs. They're riding with no power steering and all brakes out. That doesn't stop them from proceeding onward. When he arrives at the inevitable solo, his instrument purrs like a tabby cat. At this intersection, there are timely sound effects that make me think I'm being pulled over for speeding every time. I hate to admit it, but it got me on several passes before I memorized its unexpected ETA. If you're out on a joy ride or asleep at the wheel, you potentially risk a heart attack when traversing through this cloverleaf.

The Sun In My Eyes - This melee of mainstream contentment comes to us in the spirit of a progressive affirmation. When they go contemporary, they give us "Owner of a Lonely Heart." I'd sooner expect to find this song on the latest Earth, Wind, and Fire. Still, it's warranted for this short recess. Not to mention, this could be the lone symphonic ballad that blasts them into the commercial charts. The keyboards cook while the bass really boils. Last but not least, the spotlight shines brightly on Jonzon. He wholeheartedly rocks the Kasbah with a religious recitation of the Kaballah. Also worked within the words is a truly funny line. Tillison despairingly admits to, "Getting his head bashed in for liking Yes." For those who have been with the niche brethren since its inception; in a figurative sense, this is a true confession. While this relic is all right, the extended rendition found in the special edition in and of itself necessitates an upgrade.

A Place in the Queue - The "coup de gra caps the stack. As it's sans pareil, this is what you've been - unknowingly - waiting to hear. It's best described as Tillison's "Tales from the Topographic Ocean". I hear Transatlantic and Kansas in many of its sectors. There is so much in there; something's gained with every listen. Along with Morse, Wakeman and Emerson, Tillison proves to be nothing like a hound dog as he reigns supreme as the king on the keyboards. The line between metal and rock gets blurred with every one of The Tangent's albums. In actuality, parts of this sound like Dream Theater's "Octavarium." Supposedly, that's a heavy band and this one ain't but by scrutinizing these samples under a microscope, you wouldn't be able to tell the difference. In accession to these similarities, it has its own unique features too. Theo Travis' solos abound with delectable complexity. In a cameo appearance, Guy Manning monopolizes one of the segues just as he did for "Gap in the Night." When you snap this disjointed jigsaw into place, its picturesque image is no less than one in a million. There isn't a single spot where the concept gives up. The lyrics or melody parallel each other in perfect harmony. When one is inactive, the other is very much alive. While there is a front and a back, it's easy to lose yourself in the pleat of its middle. Like a gobstopper, this opus is everlasting. Yet that doesn't matter in the end. Each moment is precious and in retrospect; that applies to the patently abstract passageways as well.

In the studio, Tillison is a surgeon with the software. As I witnessed in person, he has no problem with the hardware either. No wonder he was once a part of tech support. The only fault - if anything - is that this release might be a tad too ambitious. For me, their greatest fan, that is never really a problem.

We do get two-for-one with this offer, but if you're smart; you'll dinosize the Big Kids Meal and get the doublestacked edition as a cheap means to gain access to more great stuff.

Let's flip the supplementary patty:

It actually comes in thirds. The first constitutes prime cuts. In this section, the chunks are good enough to eat even if they didn't make the standard release. In "Promises Were Made", Sam Baine sings a tune that's Mostly Autumn in nature. The second, "The First Day at School," is elementary for someone like Sherlock to assess. While simpler in form, it bears a rough resemblance to "Lost in London". Then the last in the superfluous batch, "Forsaken Cathedralsare" should have been metered with a first-class stamp and distributed wholesale to the masses.

The section to follow has just one song. It's the alternate version of "Sun in My Eyes" and it's vastly different than the uncola. While it may not be radio-friendly by today's standards, it could have been a #1 hit in the seventies. The instrumentations remind me of Yes' Magnification. What's fascinating is that there is a substantial amount of disco deposited in this and only this take.

Assigned to the anchor position, there are two ambient heirlooms. "Grooving on Mars" is a live track that puts the razzmatazz in the jam whereas "Kartoffelsalat Im Unterseeboot" has natural juices in a concentrated block of mash. It's a challenge to believe there would be room on the auction block for anything else. Somehow they've crammed it in.

While this series of songs is worthy of our full attention, we won't cover them in any further detail as we already have a huge load of cargo on consignment.

The evaluators of Antiques Roadshow would very much like to have a personal showing of this extensive collection. These authentic artifacts are sure to earn a quick quote. For the most part, these works of art should earn extensive looks by prospective buyers even if their intrinsic value isn't immediately apparent. By the time you cash this inconspicuous attaché of priceless trinkets in, you'll realize it was more than worth the wait in line. If this is what fans get for their loyalty and patience, just tell me where to sign up for the pre-order. I've never camped out for anything, but I'd surely like to be the critic with admittance to the subsequent sneak preview.

Basically, the concept is hard to ascertain. Without the proper frame of mind, I thought it was their worst album to date. Now I'm convinced it is their best. Whatever they do, add my name to the spreadsheet. I'd gladly take my place in their queue.

9.75/10

[Due to many reasons including my deliberation over the rating plus an inability to pipe down on my delight over this release, the review has taken me longer than any to date - come to think of it; I logged my first impression back in '06 and still had things to fudge together in '08. All joking aside; I temporarily lost the material to a flood. Later, I became reacquainted with my notes and the CD when rifling through a moldy box. Likewise, I have never played an album this many times: Too many to count. The present tally is probably in the hundreds. This release certainly did not deserve procrastination or reckless abandonment from me. Since the delay was somewhat out of my control, I should be forgiven. Not to mention, it was ultimately submitted. So please let this unpardonable sin pass. To own up to the crime and state my reason to come clean, what finally pushed me over the edge was the fact I made a pact with myself to not hear "Better than the Book" until I addressed this one first. Now that I have, you can be assured that there will be more diarrhea of the mouth to dole out on its successor. Hopefully, the praise will come substantially sooner and be a whole lot more concise.]

PrawgDawg | 5/5 |

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